February 29, 2012

What the world’s best pipers are playing: a pipes|drums Survey

Bass Drone Reed


Henderson cane bass reeds came in first, with seven (24%) preferring these reeds. Canning, Henderson Harmonic and Rocket each were chosen by four pipers. Thus, Henderson Reedmakers outfitted 11 (38%) of A-Grade bagpipes with bass reeds at Oban and Inverness. Only one listing was in “Other,” for a bass reed made by Cam Keating.

Tenor Drone Reeds


Ezeedrone again reigns supreme in the tenor drone reed category, with 19 (65%) going with them – another commanding lead over the rest. Canning tenor reeds were chosen second-most, with three (10%) playing them, and Selbie synthetic were named by two. The rest selected were by one piper each, and Cam Keating was again the only write-in under “Other.”

Pipe Bag


More A-Grade pipers played natural bags, with Begg sheepskin being the first choice overall (11, 38%). Bannatyne Synthetic was played by six (21%), and Ross Synthetic by five (17%). Gannaway leather and Thompson sheepskin were written in once under “Other.” Overall, 55% of A-Grade respondents played a bag made of sheepskin or natural hide.

Moisture Control


A Basic Tube Trap was the choice of 12 (41%) of A-Grade pipers, while the Ross Canister system was selected by 11 (38%). Unlike the Premier-Grade respondents, none of whom said they don’t use a moisture system, three A-Grade pipers said they went with nothing at Oban and Inverness. Of the three that checked “Other,” one said that he/she uses a Ross Canister and a Basic Tube Trap in combination and two said they use the Achiltibuie system, which made Achiltibuie the second-most-popular moisture control system.

So for A-Grade pipers, the average preferred bagpipe was made up of vintage Henderson drones and a Naill blackwood chanter with a Donald MacPhee chanter reed. He/she would play a Henderson cane bass drone reed in combination with Ezeedrone tenor reeds, with a Begg sheepskin bag with a basic tube trap.


  1. For the future, it would be interesting to know if anyone has changed their set up in the past year, or even how many times they’ve changed their setup in the past 5 years, for example. Also, what is being changed. This would give us all an idea of the most volatile” areas that need watching

  2. Perhaps the reason for a greater percentage of vintage pipes in the premier grade and newer pipes on the B grade is a reflection on the age/longevity of the players and their respective accessability to (at the appropriate age) reasonably priced instruments? EG, a 16 year old us not too likely to cough up 10K for a set of now rare Silver & Ivory vintage pipes compared to 2K? for an abundant new set of equal or better quality sound? Maybe? As far as bags and reeds, it’s interesting to see that the Old Dogs” have a preference for modern technology while the “Young Pups” are slanted more towards the old…hmmm…perhaps pups have more patience or energy for the persnicketiness of the old ways? Well. I’m stayin’ with my old pipes and new bags/reeds…I just don’t have the patience for the protracted battle of attrition for a negligibly better or worse sound at the end of it…gimme instant sound anytime!… Cheers

  3. @Lawrie – thanks for the comment. I’m sure many of the respondents don’t care about revealing their identity, but keeping everyone anonymous gets many more responses, which is most important. @Doc – good idea. Perhaps we will add a question or two along those lines next time.



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